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Like a 'pie crust': Coroner probes fatal crane collapse

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An inquest is under way into the death of a Brisbane father-of-three when an elevated work platform at a Newstead development site collapsed.

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Almost six years since professional photographer Christopher Powell plummeted 60 metres to his death when the work platform collapsed, the inquest aims to prevent it ever happening again.

Powell was on the platform to capture images of a proposed construction site in Newstead in the heart of Brisbane city when the platform (EWP) collapsed.

Powell’s son Brendan, 17 at the time, was with his father and suffered serious injuries in the accident.

The pair had been hired to take aerial photographs for an advertising campaign to promote the views potential buyers would have from luxury high-rise apartments proposed for the site.

Coroner Donald MacKenzie foreshadowed sweeping legislative changes after the inquest into the tragedy.

“This is not an investigation as to who is at fault, who is liable, or who is guilty of an offence,” the coroner said on Tuesday.

“It is abundantly clear what went wrong.

“This is an inquest to search for a mechanism, which will probably be a legislative one, to prevent any repetition of this tragic event.”

Counsel assisting the coroner Mark Plunkett said Powell fell to his death on December 14, 2015.

“They were using a truck-mounted elevated work platform and they were in the crew basket taking the photographs,” Plunkett said.

The collapse happened when the rear passenger side outrigger leg of the EWP began to sink into the ground of “soft clay”.

“It was like a pie crust … it looked certain but beneath it was like plastic absorbed clay,” he said.

He said the platform machinery itself was “highly sophisticated” with safety measures in place.

“The safety system is designed to manage the stability of the computer system and prevent it from going into an unstable position.

“These sophisticated computer safeguard systems are not able to rectify a sudden subsidence under an outrigger.”

Witnesses told the inquest the fact construction had not started meant safety measures were not as stringent at the time of the accident.

“If construction had started, there would have been more checks and balances in place prior to having any kind of mobile plant on site,” Workplace Health and Safety investigator Deborah Dargan told the hearing.

Her investigation found EWP operators were qualified and had followed safety guidelines and did not recommend they face prosecution.

Graphic designer David Spittle said Mr Powell had been hired for a series of photo shoots to capture the skyline before the accident.

He confirmed the EWP operator was concerned about the platform’s placement.

“The operator was not too comfortable taking the vehicle down to the bottom of the site,” Spittle said.

However, after walking the site he agreed to set up the machinery at the proposed location.

The inquest is set down for three days.

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